Kingston on verge of victory over Surbiton

Thames Valley League division 2 match played at the United Reformed Church, Surbiton on 2 November 2021

Local rivalry renewed and once again Kingston are in charge against the auld enemy, though it was admittedly the Kingston first team up against Surbiton B in Division 2 of the Thames Valley League. Both teams were missing key personnel, and Kingston suffered a late withdrawal, which meant that the captain himself had to play – never a happy situation. For a long time, it looked as if Surbiton would prevail, but at the end, as the cold in their wintry new church venue told, there were some strange twists that changed the picture entirely.

The facts. Peter Lalic, whose arrival at Kingston alongside David Maycock has helped to transform the club’s fortunes, played the Budapest Gambit and won a pleasing game against Liam Bayly on top board. Jon Eckert overcame a ratings deficit of 140 points and a poor lifetime score against his opponent to beat Paul Dupré in an excellent game on board two. On board three, Surbiton’s Nick Faulks returned the favour by overturning another large ratings deficit to defeat Kingston’s David Rowson.

From Eckert v Dupré, White to play and checkmate in 15 moves ignoring desperadoes (answer)

I was very lucky to squeeze a draw out of my game on board five against the solid and thoughtful David Cole. I sacrificed (or perhaps just lost) a pawn for what turned out to be nothing early on, and was always up against it. David had what was almost certainly a winning rook endgame but happily no time to prosecute it, so rather than trying to win on the increment took my rather desperate draw offer. On board six, Adam Nakar dropped a piece early and looked certain to lose, but fought valiantly and secured a miracle draw two pawns down in an endgame where opposite-coloured bishops were the only pieces left on the board. He has written a blog about the joys of such endings – the point being that with opposite-coloured bishops you should never give up even the least promising-looking of positions.

That made it 3-2 to Kingston, so it all hinged on board four. Cue anti-climax: the two players – Kingston’s extremely promising newcomer John Shanley (the medical hero of the Maidenhead match the previous week) and Surbiton’s Andrew Boughen – adjourned. Shanley has the edge and I am foolishly already calling the match as a win for Kingston, but we won’t have a definitive result for a couple of weeks.

This raises all sorts of questions. Should we really still be playing adjournments in the age of engines and digital clocks that allow for increments so avoid flagging? Why on earth does the Thames Valley League permit a variety of different time controls to be played in the same match? Quickplay on some boards; slowplay on other boards; even different forms of quickplay, with some players allowed to opt for increments and others for fixed times. We were using three different time controls across six boards, which is madness, yet permissible under Thames Valley rules.

It’s a shambles, a nightmare for captains, confusing for players and needs to be rationalised. Some clubs opt for two-and-a-half-hour playing sessions and others for three-hour sessions, each of which comes with a variety of different time controls, adding to the confusion. I count at least six different time controls in use in the league. Sorry, but this needs to be looked at as soon as possible. Why not 75 minutes and a 10-second increment for all evening chess? That’s fair, easy to understand and provides sufficient time for a perfectly good game.

 A blog by club chairman John Foley covers these issues in more detail 

But enough ranting. Thanks to Surbiton for an excellent match that was in the balance to the end – indeed could, I suppose, still be said to be in the balance, though the doctor’s diagnosis is that his opponent is unlikely to recover. It’s nice for the club to be off the mark in the Thames Valley. We would love to be back in Division 1. And, speaking for myself, I was extremely pleased to squeak a draw as a last-minute substitute after the Maidenhead disaster last week. My season is up and running … or at least stumbling.

Stephen Moss, Kingston Thames Valley captain

P.S. John Shanley drew his adjourned game when it was resumed after a two-week delay. He was a little disappointed not to convert his advantage, but, as his opponent said, a computer’s evaluation that you have a 2.7 plus is not so easy to convert in practical play in a rook v bishop and knight endgame. In the end, a draw was agreed, so Kingston did win the match, getting us off the mark in Thames Valley League division two, which we are very hopeful of winning this season (famous last words).